Driver of Cal Fire Pickup Stolen From Northern California Arrested Following Pursuit in Santa Barbara County

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A stolen Cal Fire pickup truck is seen after it was involved in a pursuit in northern Santa Barbara County on July 27, 2018, in a photo released by the Sheriff's Department.
A stolen Cal Fire pickup truck is seen after it was involved in a pursuit in northern Santa Barbara County on July 27, 2018, in a photo released by the Sheriff’s Department.

A man driving a stolen Cal Fire pickup was arrested after leading authorities on a pursuit along the Santa Barbara County coast on Friday, officials said.

The red-and-white Ford truck with fire protection agency’s logo was stolen recently out of Northern California, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Cal Fire spokesperson Chris Elms told local outlet Noozhawk it was taken from Monterey County, though it’s unclear exactly when.

Sometime after that, the pickup was also involved in a theft in Pismo Beach, officials said.

But Elms said the truck wasn’t hard to find since all Cal Fire vehicles are equipped with GPS.

Sheriff’s deputies spotted it driving in Los Alamos, which lies along the 101 Freeway just north of the Santa Ynez Valley, around 11:50 a.m. Friday.

The deputies began monitoring the vehicle while waiting for reinforcement, but the driver saw them and began fleeing, the Sheriff’s Department said.

A chase ensued out of Los Alamos on Highway 135, and California Highway Patrol became involved as it headed north.

Just before reaching Orcutt, the stolen truck made a U-turn and began heading back down toward Vandenberg Air Force Base. It was about to attempt a second U-turn a short time later when the deputies “used pursuit intervention techniques to successfully stop the vehicle,” according to the sheriff’s news release.

Officials did not specify how exactly the pickup was stopped, but photos released by the Sheriff’s Department show it came to rest against what appeared to be a civilian vehicle.

The driver was then arrested at gunpoint. Authorities identified him as Donald Schellinger, 38, and said he was a transient from Northern California.

Schellinger was expected to be booked on suspicion of felony reckless evading, possession of stolen property, vehicle theft and violating parole, officials said.

The vehicle theft came as Cal Fire is involved in massive firefighting operations in three California counties where states of emergency were declared this week as blazes raged out of control.

The Carr Fire in Shasta County claimed the lives of two men fighting it and destroyed dozens of homes as it continued to spread into Redding and other populated areas on Friday.

In Riverside County, the Cranston Fire was burning its its third day with minimal containment after destroying five homes on Wednesday.

And the Ferguson Fire in Mariposa County was continuing into its 15th day with 29 percent containment. The wildfire is threatening Yosemite National Park, which is closed through at least Sunday.

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